This weekend, hundreds of people from across California, and from as far away as Idaho, Oregon and Washington State will head to Sacramento for a little taste of Texas. It's the sixth annual Tejano/Conjunto Festival, a celebration of Latino music from Texas that spread West. Reporter: Julie Caine
JULIE CAINE: The Gloria family -- cousins, aunts and uncles -- is sitting around a kitchen table in Modesto, doing what they always do -- playing music together. Thirty-year-old accordionist Albert Gloria remembers being a kid and watching his Uncle Beto's band practice in the garage across the street.
ALBERT GLORIA: Instead of running around playing tag, I'd just watch them.
CAINE: This band is called Texas Funk, and they play at clubs and parties around Modesto. It's made up of three generations of musicians -- the younger ones were born in California, the older ones in Texas. Tejano is the Spanish word for Texan; conjunto means ensemble. The music is a blend of Mexican ballads and German polkas, brought together in Texas. The accordion is the star instrument, and it's joined by bass, drums and a 12-string guitar called a bajo sexto. The lyrics often tell sad tales of broken hearts and forbidden love.
Like the older generation of the Gloria family, many early Tejano Conjunto musicians and their relatives were migrant farm workers.
RAMONA LANDEROS: My first job was picking cotton at the age of five.
CAINE: That's Ramona Landeros, who today organizes the Tejano Conjunto Festival. She grew up in the 1960s with no child-labor protections.
LANDEROS: I remember reaching into the bud of the cotton plant, and my hand was so small that it would fit perfectly inside the cotton bud.
CAINE: Originally from Texas, her family traveled across the West working in fields and living in migrant labor camps with terrible conditions. She says their music made life bearable.
LANDEROS: Dad used to say, "la musica que te trae de la muerte." In other words, music that would bring you back from the dead. After a long day's work and you feel dead at the end of the day, and then when they bust out the accordions, the guitars and the bajo sextos, everybody would be outside listening to the music, and before you know it, they start -- you know, people start kicking up dust dancing.
CAINE: These Tejano migrants brought their music with them as they traveled, which is how it came to to California. Landeros thought of a way to create a home away from home for the music and its fans.
LANDEROS: I just thought God, it would be nice to have something out here because I know so many Tejanos in Oregon and Washington and Idaho, all the places that I've been and that we've worked, I knew there was always Tejanos that ended up staying in those places and I thought well, if we were to -- if I was to organize a festival here in Sacramento, I bet people would come.
CAINE: And she was right. Now in its sixth year, the festival's grown to three days. It attracts people from all across the West, keeping the music alive far from its roots.
Audiences come to dance too and to hear musicians like the Gloria family play with heart. Accordion player Albert Gloria says songs get passed down from generation to generation.
And she was right. Now in its sixth year, the Tejano Conjunto Festival's grown to three days. It attracts people from all across the West, keeping the music alive far from its roots.
ROBERT GLORIA: This is probably as close as it gets to it being in Texas where they have these types of events all the time.
CAINE: That's Texas Funk bass player Robert Gloria. This weekend, a couple thousand people will come out to dance and hear musicians like the Gloria family, adding their own touches to old standards. Robert and Albert Gloria play a classic polka by Tony de la Rosa. And then their new version, with lots of Texas Funk.
But Tejano music isn't just played around kitchen tables. It's a major genre, with a Grammy category and its own pantheon of stars. One of them, Flaco Jimenez, is headlining this weekend's Tejano Conjunto Festival.
Texas Funk accordion player Albert Gloria says keeping Tejano music alive in California is all about heart.
ALBERT GLORIA: We do it to keep the tradition going, and love of the music we've been taught by our parents, uncles, aunts, everybody.
CAINE: The Tejano Conjunto Festival runs through Sunday in Sacramento's Cesar Chavez Plaza. Texas Funk plays the closing party.